Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chapter 61 [part 5 of 5]

[How, in the heat of battle, Amadis broke his sword and discovered that Ardan’s sword rightly belonged to him.]
[Detail of Mâlain Castle, Burgundy, France. Photo by Christophe.Finot.] 

When Oriana saw Amadis injured and bleeding, her heart could stand no more. She left the window in great anguish, sat on the floor, and beat her face with her hands, believing that her beloved was close to death. Mabilia’s heart was heavy to see her hurt herself, and she made Oriana return to the window, angrily telling her how at this hour and in this danger she could not forsake her beloved. Since Oriana could not bear to watch him in such dire straits, Mabilia had her turn her back so that her beloved could gain courage and spirit by seeing her beautiful hair.

At this time, one of the judges, Brandoivas, said:

“I feel very worried about Amadis, for I see that his arms and shield are failing him.”

“So it seems to me,” said Sir Grumedan, “which gives me great sorrow.”

“My lords,” Cuadragante said, “I tested Amadis when he fought with me and found him to be so valiant and with such fire that it always seemed that his strength kept doubling. Of all the knights I have seen, he is the one who knows best how to pace himself and has the most endurance. I see him now with all his strength intact, but not so with Ardan Canileo, who is growing steadily weaker. If there is one thing that hurts Amadis, it is not Canileo but his haste, for if he waited, he would make his opponent follow him and Canileo’s great weight would tire him, but Amadis’s great spirit will not let him rest.”

Oriana and Mabilia, who heard this, felt greatly comforted. But Amadis, who had seen his lady leave the window and then had not seen her again, thought that she had left mourning for him, and he went with great fury at Ardan Canileo. He held his sword tight in his hand and struck with all his strength on the top of his head. The mighty blow left Ardan stunned, and he dropped one knee to the ground. But because the blow was so great and the helmet so strong, Amadis’s sword broke into three parts, and the smallest piece remained in his hand. Then the fear of death entered him and all those who watched.

When Ardan Canileo saw this, he stepped back in the field, took his shield by its handles, waved his sword, and said to Amadis, shouting loud enough for all to hear:

“Thou seest here the very good sword that to thy harm thou hadst won. Look well at this, for by it thou shalt die.” Then he shouted, “Come out, come out to the window, my lady Madasima, and see the beautiful vengeance that I shall give you, and how I have won it by my prowess in a way that no other man who loved you could have done.”

When Madasima heard this, she was forlorn and threw herself at the feet of the Queen to ask her for mercy and to defend her from him, which she did for good reason, for Ardan had promised to kill or defeat Amadis before a man could walk half a league, and if he did not do so, she should never grant him her love. By that time more than four hours had passed, as she could see.

The Queen told her:

“I hear what ye say and shall do what is just.”

Amadis, when he realized that his armor was in pieces and he had no sword, remembered what Urganda had said, that he would give half the world, if it were his, to have his sword thrown into a lake. He looked at the window where Oriana was, and saw her back, he understood that his ill fortune had caused her to turn away. Great courage grew in him and he put his entire life at risk, preferring to die than to fail to do all he could.

He came at Ardan Canileo as if he meant to attack. Ardan raised the sword and waited for him. When Amadis neared, Ardan tried to strike him, but Amadis dodged and made him miss. Then Amadis came close, and before Ardan could raise his sword halfway up, he grabbed the central boss of his shield so hard that he pulled it from his arm and threw him on the ground.

Amadis stepped back, put the shield on his arm, and picked up the piece of an iron-tipped lance from the ground in front of him. He then faced Ardan, protected by his shield. Ardan, furious at having lost his shield, charged at him and tried to strike him on the top of his helmet. Amadis raised the shield and took the blow with it, and although it was very strong and of fine steel, the sword sunk through its center fully three fingers deep.

Amadis struck Ardan with the piece of the lance on the right arm just above his hand and thrust half the iron between the two long bones. This made Ardan lose his strength so that he could not pull the sword from the shield, and Amadis took it away with the shield. Whether this made Amadis happy and content is not to be questioned or said. Then he threw the piece of the lance very far away and took the sword from the shield, praising God for the mercy He had done.

Mabilia, who was watching, took Oriana by the hands and made her turn to see her beloved win a great victory and overcome the great danger he had been in. Amadis charged at Ardan Canileo, who felt weak to see his death approaching. He thought he could find no refuge or help, so he tried to take the shield from Amadis in the same way Amadis had done. But Amadis, when he saw him close, struck a blow on his right shoulder that cut through his armor and sank deeply into his flesh and bones.

When Ardan saw that he had lost the use of his arm, he fled across the field in terror of the sword. But Amadis chased him and saw that he was tired and confused. He grabbed his helmet so roughly that he made Ardan fall at his feet and pulled the helmet from his head. Amadis came over him while he was kneeling and cut off his head.

This brought great joy to all, especially King Arban of North Wales and Angriote d’Estravaus, who had suffered great anguish and pain when they saw Amadis in difficulty, as ye have heard.

When this was done, Amadis took the head and threw it outside of the field, then dragged the body to a peak and cast it into the sea. He cleaned the blood from his sword and put it in his scabbard. The King immediately ordered him to be given a horse, on which he rode to his lodging, having suffered many wounds and lost much blood, and he was accompanied by many knights.

But first he had King Arban of North Wales and Angriote d’Estravaus released from their cruel imprisonment, and he took them with him. He sent King Arban of North Wales to Queen Brisena, his aunt, who had left a request for him at his lodging. Both he and his loyal friend Angriote were given medical treatment, Amadis for his wounds and Angriote for the whippings and other injuries he had suffered in prison.

There they were visited by the knights and the ladies and damsels of court with much love, and Amadis by his cousin Mabilia, who brought the true medicine with which his heart could be strengthened and send the other smaller injures the health that they needed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

“Isabel” - the television series

Spain’s history triumphs on the small screen. 

Isabel I of Castilla, Enrique IV, and Alfonso of Castilla. TVE photo.

If you understand Spanish, you may wish to watch one of this fall’s most popular television series in Spain, “Isabel.” It was aired on Televisíon Española (TVE), and you can watch the 13 episodes at the series’s website:

RTVE describes it this way:

The thrilling battle of a woman to become queen: this is the story that “Isabel” tells in its first series. Specifically, it begins with her education when she was hardly more than a girl, and ends with her coronation at only 23 years old, a key period for understanding the personality of the woman who was later called Isabel the Catholic.

If you watch closely, you’ll notice a few historical inaccuracies, and social customs and language have been simplified. I’m particularly disappointed in the choice of the actor to portray Fernando of Aragon, whom she marries at age 18. He was only 17 years old when they wed, but the actor — talented and handsome, to be sure — is twice that age.

On the other hand, the series makes good use of Spain’s heritage: the actual castles where events took place, for example. The intrigues, battles, and personalities were real, and the photography and scripts will keep you riveted. This series gathered a 22% audience share for a reason.

“Only God can take me from this throne,” Isabel declares at the end of the final episode, but He didn’t make it easy to get there.

A second season is planned that will include the war of succession between the backers of Isabel and Juana la Beltrana, the conquest of Granada, the expulsion of the Jews, and the voyage of Christopher Columbus.

The only surviving version of Amadis of Gaul was written during Isabel’s reign. I don’t know if she read it, but future Spanish kings did.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chapter 61 [part 4 of 5]

[How Amadis prepared and the battle began, but his sword was no match Ardan Canileo’s.] 

[A relic on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Ecclesiastical Treasury in Vienna. In real medieval life, reliquaries and magic weapons were prohibited in fights like these. Photo by Sue Burke.] 

Amadis took the King aside, away from the other knights, and said:

“My lord, know that I have lost my sword, which I did not discover until now, and only the scabbard remains.”

The King was very troubled by that and told him:

“Although I have promised and upheld never to give my sword to any knight in my court who was fighting one-on-one, I shall give you it now, in consideration of the great confrontations that ye have been placed in while in my service.”

“My lord,” Amadis said, “may it not please God that I, who must support and keep your pledge, make ye break it, for ye have made that promise before many noblemen.”

Tears came to the King’s eyes, and he said:

“Ye are such that ye maintain all that is just and loyal. But what shall ye do, if ye cannot have that fine sword?”

“I have the sword with which I was launched into the sea,” he said, “which Sir Guilan brought here and the Queen ordered to be kept. With it and with your prayers to our Lord, which will be worth much before Him, I shall be aided.”

Then he tried the other sword in the scabbard and it fit well, although a little smaller. The King was pleased by that because Amadis could bring the scabbard with him, which had the virtue of protecting him from great heat and cold because it was made from dragons’ bones, although that sword was nowhere near as good as the other one.

And so they spent the day until it was time to sleep, and all those knights of whom ye have heard placed their arms around the King’s bed.

But I tell you that in Ardan Canileo’s tents that night, he and all his people held a party and danced and sang, playing many kinds of musical instruments, and at the end of the songs, they all shouted:

“Come, morning, come and bring the bright day, because Ardan Canileo shall fulfill his promise to the very beautiful Madasima.”

But fortune was contrary to this in a different way than they thought.

Amadis lay that night in the King’s bed, but sleep did not come to his aid, and so at midnight he got up without saying a word and went to the chapel, woke the chaplain, and confessed all his sins. They both prayed before the altar of the Virgin Mary, asking Her to be his advocate in the battle.

When dawn came, the King arose as did the knights whom ye have heard tell of, and they heard Mass. Knights who knew the task well armed Amadis. But before he put on his chain mail, Mabilia came and put some relics in gold cases around his neck, saying that his mother, the Queen, had sent them with the Damsel of Denmark. But that was not so, for Queen Elisena had given them to Amadis when she learned he was her son, and he had given them to Oriana when he rescued her from Arcalaus and the men who were carrying her away.

When he was armed, they brought him a handsome horse that Corisanda had sent to Sir Florestan with other gifts. Sir Florestan carried his lance, Sir Guilan his shield, and Sir Bruneo his helmet. The King came on a fine horse with his scepter in his hand.

And know that all the people of the court and the town were around the field to watch the battle, and the ladies and damsels were in the windows, and the beautiful Oriana and Mabilia stood in a window of their chamber, and Briolanja and Madasima and other princesses were with the Queen.

When Amadis arrived at the field, they raised a chain. He entered and took his arms, and when he had to put on his helmet, he looked at his lady Oriana, and such great courage came to him that it seemed that nothing in the world could help him with equal strength. Then the judges entered the field who had to be arbiters for each knight. There were three of them: the fine old Sir Grumedan, who knew much about such things, and Sir Cuadragante, who was a vassal of the King, and Brandoivas.

Then Ardan Canileo arrived, well-armed on a fine horse, wearing very thick mail and carrying a shield and helmet of such clean bright steel that they shone like a sparkling mirror. He wore Amadis’s very good sword, which the damsel had stolen, and carrying a thick lance, waving it so hard that it seemed as if he wanted to break it. That was how he came onto the field.

When Oriana saw this, she said with great sorrow:

“Oh, my friends, how angry and fearsome comes my death, if God in his great mercy does not help him!”

“My lady,” Mabilia said, “leave that and put on a good face, because with it ye shall give strength to your beloved.”

Then Grumedon took Amadis and placed him at one end of the field, and Brandoivas put Ardan Canileo at the other, with their horses facing each other. Sir Cuadragante waited in the middle with a bugle in his hand, and the knights could charge when he played it.

Amadis, looking at his lady, shouted:

“What is Cuadragante doing that he does not sound the bugle?”

Cuadragante immediately played it, and the knights had their horses gallop, and they struck their lances on each others’ shields so bravely that they were immediately broken. They ran into each other, and Ardan Canileo’s horse fell over its neck and immediately died. Amadis’s had a shoulder broken and could not arise.

But Amadis, with his very spirited heart, got up immediately, although with difficulty, because a bit of the lance had passed through his shield and up the sleeve of his chain mail without touching his flesh. He took it out, put his hand on his sword, and went at Ardan Canileo, who had gotten up with great effort and was straightening his helmet. When he saw his situation, he put his hand on his sword and went to attack so bravely that no man who saw them was not very frightened, for his blows were so fierce and so fast that the sparks flying from the helmets and the swords made them seem to be on fire.

Even more like fire was the shield of Ardan Canileo, for it was steel and the blows of Amadis were so hard that the shield and his arm seemed to be burning in live flames. But its great strength protected Ardan’s flesh from being cut. This was to Amadis’ mortal peril, for his armor was not as strong and Ardan had one of the best swords in the world, so he struck no blow that did not cut armor and flesh. In many places Amadis’s armor was stained with blood and his shield was almost ruined.

Meanwhile Amadis’s sword could not cut through Ardan Canileo’s armor, which was very strong, but while his chain mail was thick and heavy, it had been cut in more than ten places, and from each one of them blood flowed fast. What helped Amadis the most at that time was the great agility with which he dodged most of his opponents blows, although Ardan had much experience in fighting and knew well how to attack with his sword.

In that peril as ye hear, they continued, delivering many great and harsh blows until the third hour of the day, toiling with their arms and hands so fiercely that Ardan became very afraid, for he had never found a knight so strong nor a giant so brave that they could resist his valor. And what made this battle harder was that he found his enemy growing more agile and stronger than he had been at the beginning, while he was growing more tired and weak and covered with blood.

Then Madasima realized he would fail in what he had promised, and Amadis would win in less time than it would take to walk a half-league. This did not trouble her, nor that Ardan Canileo would lose his head there, because at this point she thought she would rather lose all her lands than find herself yoked to that man in marriage.

The knights attacked with many great and powerful blows on all sides where they could do the most harm, and each one tried to bring the other to death. With his great agility and endurance, if Amadis had borne a better sword, the other knight could not have maintained himself in the field. Yet Amadis did everything he could and labored as hard as he could, for he was fighting a mighty and elusive knight at arms. By then all his armor was broken and his shield destroyed, and his flesh cut in many places from which blood flowed freely.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Giants of Galtares

A short story inspired by Amadis of Gaul. 

An illumination by Loyset Liédet for Froissart’s Chronicles about the Hundred Year’s War.

In Chapters 11 and 12, Amadis’s brother Galaor travels to Galtares to do battle with the giant who has taken Galtares from Galaor’s step-father, also a giant. He is accompanied by two damsels he meets along the way.

Throughout the centuries, Amadis of Gaul has inspired a wide variety of sequels and spin-off works. I have continued that tradition and written the story of one of the damsels who sees Galaor triumph — and who faces her own life-changing test of courage.

You can read “The Giants of Galtares” in issue #111 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, an online magazine of literary adventure fantasy:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Chapter 61 [part 3 of 5]

[How Amadis and other knights went to meet Madasima, and how his sword was discovered to be missing.] 

[Tomb of Sir Garcia de Osorio, a knight of the Order of Santiago, originally located in a church in Toledo, Spain, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.] 

When morning came, they put on rich clothing and, after hearing Mass, mounted beautiful palfreys and went to welcome Madasima. With them went Sir Bruneo of Bonamar and his brother Branfil, and Enil, who was a very genteel knight with a happy heart, well loved and esteemed by all for his good manners and great courage. And so eight companions went to welcome her.

They neared the tents and saw Madasima, Ardan Canileo, and his company. Madasima wore black clothing in mourning for her father and brother, but her beauty was so vivid and abundant that even in those clothes she seemed so lovely that it was a marvel to everyone. With her were her damsels, dressed in the same clothing. Ardan Canileo led her by the reins. The old giant and his sons also accompanied her, and the nine knights who would give themselves as hostages.

When the eight knights arrived, they bowed, and she bowed to them and seemed happy to see them. Amadis came to her and said:

“My lady, if ye are praised, it is rightly so, given your appearance, and anyone who knows you should consider himself blessed to honor and serve you. And I tell you that I shall do all I can in whatever ye may command.”

Ardan Canileo, who looked at him and saw that he was more handsome than any other man he had ever seen, was not pleased to have him speak to her, and told him:

“Knight, get back and do not be so bold as to talk to someone ye do not know.”

“My lord,” Amadis said, “that is why we came here, to know her and serve her.”

Ardan told him disdainfully:

“Then tell me now who ye are, and I shall see if ye are such that ought to serve a damsel of such high lineage.”

“Whoever I may be,” Amadis said, “I shall serve her willingly, and if I were not as worthy as I should be, I would not wish to do so any less. And if ye wish to know who I am, tell me who ye are, for ye wish to keep her from someone who would happily fulfill her orders.”

Ardan Canileo looked at him with fury and said:

“I am Ardan Canileo, and I could serve her better in one day than ye could in your entire life, even if ye were worth twice as much as ye are.”

“That may be,” Amadis said, “but I know that your great service, given your excessive ill will, would not be done with such a good heart as my small one. If ye wish to know me, know that I am Amadis of Gaul, the one ye seek to fight, and if I have given this lady any trouble or sorrow by doing what I could not avoid without great shame, I shall gladly correct that with some other service.”

Ardan Canileo said:

“If ye dare to keep your promise, I shall give her your head, which shall certainly make amends for her troubles.”

“Such amends shall not be by my will,” Amadis said, “but there is another, better amends that I shall make, and that will be for me to prevent the marriage between you and her, for I know no man so foolish as to think it good for her and your beauty to be made one.”

When he said this, it did not weigh on Madasima, who laughed freely, as did her damsels, but Ardan because so angry that he shook and his face became so fierce and frightening that anyone who saw him and did know Amadis’s achievements in arms or weigh Amadis’s strength and valor against Ardan’s, without a doubt would have believed that this would be Amadis’s last battle and the last day of his life.

And so as ye hear, they rode until they came before the King, and Ardan Canileo said:

“King, ye see here the knights who will become your prisoners to secure what my damsel has promised, if Amadis dares to keep his word.”

Amadis came forward and said:

“My lord, ye see me here, for I wish the battle immediately and without further delay, and I tell you that even if I had not promised it, I would fight if only to save Madasima from such an ill-suited marriage. But I want King Arban of North Wales and Angriote d’Estravaus to be brought to where I will be if I win the battle.”

Ardan Canileo said:

“I shall have them brought to where the battle will be, and if I take your head, I shall take those of the prisoners, and I shall also take Madasima and her damsels, who shall be held by the Queen, and thus everything agreed-upon shall be fulfilled. It will be proper to have her be where she can see the battle and the vengeance that I shall do for her.”

So, as ye hear, the beautiful Madasima and her damsels were placed under the power of the Queen and the old giant and his sons and the nine knights under the power of the King. But I tell you that Madasima appeared before the Queen with such humility and discretion that, although her arrival put Amadis in such danger, which troubled everyone, the Queen and her ladies and damsels were very content with her and did her many honors.

But Oriana and Mabilia, when they saw the brave countenance of Ardan Canileo, were terribly frightened and felt great worry and pain. They retired in their room and shed many tears, fearing that Amadis’s great courage would not be enough against that devil. If they had any hope, it was only in his good fortune, which had often saved him from great danger in confrontations so grave that little hope could have been had that he or anyone else might have won. As always, Mabilia gave Oriana great consolation.

When this was done, and the battle was set for the next day, the King ordered his hunters and archers to enclose a field in front of his palace with chains and posts so that the knights would not lose any honor on account of their horses. Oriana saw this from a window and, thinking of the danger that would befall her beloved there, she felt so faint that she almost fell senseless into the arms of Mabilia.

The King went to Amadis’s lodging, where many knights were, and told them that since the Queen and his daughter and Queen Brisena and all the other ladies and damsels would go to  the chapel that night to ask God to protect her knight, he wished to take him to his palace, and with him Florestan, Agrajes, Sir Galvanes, Guilan, and Enil, so that they could rest. And he told Amadis to have his armor and weapons brought to the chapel because the next day he wanted him to be armed before the Virgin Mary so that She could intercede for him with Her glorious Son.

So they went with the King, and Amadis ordered Gandalin to take his arms to where the King had said. But when Gandalin went to get them to fulfill his orders, he could not find the sword in the sheath, and he was so frightened and sad that he wished he were dead, both because it had happened in a time of such great danger and because he took it as a sign that the death of his lord was near.

He looked for the sword everywhere and asked anyone who might know about it, but he learned nothing, and he was at the point of jumping from a window into the sea below until he remembered that by doing so, he would lose his soul. He went to the King’s palace with great anguish in his heart, took Amadis aside, and said:

“My lord, cut off my head for I have betrayed you, and if you do not, I must kill myself.”

Amadis told him:

“Where didst thou lose thy mind, or what ill fortune is it?”

“My lord,” he said, “it would be better if I were mad or dead than if at a time like this such great ill fortune had occurred, for know that I have lost your sword, which has been stolen from its scabbard.”

Amadis told him:

“Why art thou upset? I thought something worse had happened to thee. Now let it be, for there will be no lack of another with which God shall help me if it pleases Him.”

Although he said this as consolation, the loss of the sword did give him sorrow, both for being one of the best in the world and for needing it so much at that time, as well as for having won it by the power of the great love he had for his lady, because when he saw it and remembered her, it was a great relief to his mortal desires when she was absent. He told Gandalin to say nothing to anyone about it and to bring the scabbard, and to ask the Queen if  the sword Sir Guilan had brought could be placed with his other arms, and if so, to bring it. And, if Gandalin could see Oriana, to ask her on his behalf to let him see her when he and Ardan Canileo entered the field, to place herself somewhere visible, because her sight would make him the victor in that and anything else, no matter how grave it might be.

Gandalin went to do all that his lord had ordered, and the Queen ordered the sword to be given to him. But Queen Briolanja and Olinda told him:

“Oh, Gandalin, what dost thou think thy lord can do against that devil?”

He told them, laughing and with a cheerful face:

“My ladies, this is not the first dangerous deed that my lord has done. God has protected him so far, and He shall now, and since Amadis has maintained his honor in many other and more terrifying perils, he shall win in this one.”

“May it please God,” they said.

Then Gandalin went to Mabilia and told her to tell Oriana what his lord had sent him to ask. With that he returned to the chapel which held the arms and told his lord that everything had been done as he wished. Amadis took great pleasure and courage in knowing that his lady would be in a place where she could be seen from the field.